Democratic lawmakers continue call to change Ohio laws to prevent corruption
Democrats in the Ohio House continue to clamor for passage of bills they say would prevent future corruption with utilities, like what happened with the nuclear energy bailout scandal connected to the 2019 law known as House Bill 6.
The Democrats say court documents in the HB 6 case show a lack of checks and balances in state government, leading to corrupt behavior by politicians and FirstEnergy, the electric utility involved in the case. Democrats are introducing two bills aimed at preventing future corruption.
One of the latest bills comes from Rep. Dan Troy (D-Willowick). His legislation would change the Public Utilities of Ohio (PUCO), the panel that regulates utilities. Troy's bill would reform the makeup of the PUCO to ensure consumers have a seat at the table when it comes to regulating utilities.
“We have to all, regardless of what side of the aisle we come from, understand that something's something's rotten here in Denmark, that we need to do something to change the methodology by which we regulate our public utilities in the state of Ohio,” Troy said.
Another bill sponsored by Rep. Rachel Baker (D-Cincinnati) would require utility charges that have been determined to be unlawfully assessed to be refunded to ratepayers within 120 days.
“In a time when we are rebuilding trust with Ohio utility customers and ratepayers, these commonsense pieces of legislation send a strong message that this legislature values and stands with consumers,” Baker said. “These pieces of legislation are an example of putting people first and a critical step forward to ensure that suitable utility services are readily available to Ohioans no matter what corner of the state they are in.”
Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) has previously sponsored legislation that would give consumers back roughly $225 million in subsidies for two coal-fired plants in HB 6, one of which is in Indiana.
Republican former House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges were convicted of racketeering in the HB 6 case last year. They’re now serving time in federal penitentiaries and have appealed their sentences.
What do majority Republicans think about these bills?
The Statehouse News Bureau reached out to Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), but he did not comment on this story or the particular bills addressed above.
But in the past Stephens has explained some of his objections to repealing the subsidies for the coal-fired plants. The Kyger Creek Power Plant in Cheshire is in Stephens’ district. Stephens has also said both plants are beneficial to Ohio’s power grid. He has not allowed the bill that would eliminate that subsidy to come up for a vote.